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Considering a move to Vancouver, BC , Canada?: Know what you’re getting into

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By Nina Brachmann and Marlene Jan

VancouverYou’re deep in talks with a company in Vancouver. They desperately want you to join them. You are flattered, very interested in this job in Vancouver, but something in your gut tells you to be cautious. Have you considered all the options? What’s missing from your checklist?

The Head

Let’s separate the mind from the gut for a moment and look at things logically. You’ve got an offer in front of you. You see some numbers. You’ve had some discussions about cost of living, benefits and relocation assistance. You have to work through this information, digest it and ask lots of questions.

Financial Impact

Money talks and you need to think about whether or not this relocation fits your financial reality and your financial goals. You have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Do you want to maintain it? Or are you willing to make sacrifices for this opportunity? Have a look at the salary your prospective employer is offering and make sure you understand what that figure translates into in after-tax, in-your-pocket dollars. And understand the basic costs in Vancouver for housing, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment and everything else. Surf the web and figure out what typical costs are in Vancouver. Read the newspaper ads, pretend to shop for food, clothes, go to a movie. Is your net salary enough to cover these things? Or maybe it’s more than enough and you’ll be able to tuck away more into your savings account?

Besides the income, think about how much this move is going to cost you. Is the company picking up the tab on moving you and your stuff to Vancouver? Are they going to put you up in temporary housing until you’re able to find something longer term for yourself? Will they help you find a place to live? Cover incidentals and other miscellaneous costs? Moving across town, much less to a new country, costs money. You are starting from scratch and you’ll have to get a new driver’s license or even a new car, phone, cable and potentially new electrical items and more. Consider how these one-time costs will impact your cash flow and your savings.

Personal Impact You’re moving to a new country and a whole new set of norms and cultural customs. Everything is going to be new to you. Make sure you understand the pay and tax system of your new country. Taxes, social security (such as employment insurance and pension) and benefits premiums will be deducted from your pay cheque automatically. Make sure you understand these amounts and what this entitles you to. Canadian taxes are calculated based on income (the tax rates increase with income) and your annual tax returns are due by April 30th of each year.

Basic medical coverage is available to all residents of British Columbia (after a three-month waiting period) and your company may cover all, a percentage, or none of the premium. Your company will likely have their own benefits plan as well which complements the provincial medical coverage. You will need to understand whether this combination of coverage is acceptable for you. If you have any concerns or think that there is something missing, ask. It may be that it was left out by accident, that the system is different in Canada or that it is something you will need to cover yourself.

Don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions. These are complicated issues that require some cultural understanding. The company may not know your current circumstances and may not know what you don’t understand until you’ve asked.

The Heart

This could be one of the most stressful situations you have been in and it is certainly life- changing. Your decision will have an emotional impact on you and the important people in your life. Are you okay with moving away from your family and friends? Excited about a new adventure or does it frighten you to the core? Everyone has a different personal tolerance for change and you have to think about yours. And what if it’s not just you? How about your spouse or children? Make sure they are really buying into this idea of moving to a new place.

Motivation. Be clear and honest with yourself about why you want to do this. It might be a great career move. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to live overseas. Maybe you love to travel and this move will get you close to the Canadian, US or Asian destinations you’ve always wanted to see. Make sure you have done a reality check and really know what life in Vancouver is like so that you don’t blindly run after an illusion. Whatever your motivation, talk to yourself about it and consider if the opportunity and the time is right for you.

Commitment. Are you committed to making the effort to make this work? It’s going to be hard work -– you’ll face cultural challenges and you’ll have to make new friends, all while you learn about your new job and your new company. Even the small things will be new – what’s a good grocery store How do I find a dentist? What’s the best way to get to work? It’ll definitely be an adventure so make sure you’re up for it. Talk to yourself and listen to your heart. What’s it telling you? That this is the adventure of a lifetime? Or is this a recipe for homesickness waiting to happen? Take the time to figure it out. You know yourself best.

Nina Brachmann and Marlene Jan provide consulting services to companies relocating employees and recruiting internationally.

Nina Brachmann is the Principal Consultant of Global Steps Relocation Consulting. Having worked in both Europe and North America for global players like DaimlerChrysler and Kodak she has managed hundreds of international relocations and assignments and has more than eight years of international HR experience.

Marlene Jan is the Principal of Think Relocation Consulting, a boutique human resources firm specializing in strategic Immigration and Relocation practices. She has more than seven years of experience working with global companies to relocate employees and new hires from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and within North America.

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